Those who work in the human services community are familiar with agencies and service initiatives that are remarkably successful and with those that are not. Some human services endeavors run smoothly and others are in perpetual crisis. Some are clearly focused and others seem never to quite live up to the expectations of stakeholders. The wide variations in operation and performance are unrelated to agency size, funding sources, location, services provided, or clients served. They are also unrelated to whether the incorporating agency is newly formed or has a long history of service, whether it is a governmental entity or a nonprofit organization. Some human services endeavors are remarkably successful while others are failing. The challenge is to understand what accounts for these wide variations and then to assure the services and agencies we establish align with those that are effective, run smoothly, are clearly mission focused and opportunity seeking, and live up to the expectations of stakeholders.
This book has a limited and focused purpose: to initiate, implement, and manage human services. The practice model is explicated through the establishment of a new human services agency; but the approach, strategies, and techniques also apply to initiating new programs and services within an existing agency structure. The model shows how to transition from an identified, unmet human services need to clients benefiting from an array of helpful services provided by a successfully functioning human services agency. The processes leading to the establishment of the functioning agency may be understood as a subset of what is generally referred to as community organizing. (For example, see Hardina, 2002; Brown, 2006; Erlich, 1996; and Rubin, 2001.) Before we move to the model itself, however, let's first explore what is meant by human services and by human services agencies.